The Mayer Manor is built on layers of history dating back to the 1500s. It can be found hiding in plain sight on the Nes. The NES is narrow street quietly running parallel to the Rokin between The Dam and Grimburgwal in downtown Amsterdam. The Dutch word nes means headland or spit (compare the English word “ness“, often found as a suffix in placenames). Until the seventeenth century, the northern part of Nes (roughly near where Dam Square now is) was called Gansoord (“Goose-oord”). (An oord (nl) is a piece of land between where two rivers meet.) The name most likely described the nature of the street’s original situation among the waterways of Amsterdam.
Since 1417, the site upon which the Mayer Manor stands has seen many incarnations. During the 1400s, you can find here a women’s convent for The Third Order of Franciscans. This was one of Amsterdam’s then twenty monasteries of which five were located on our street. Popularly this piece of road was then called “Gebed zonder end” (Prayer Without An End). Today, around the corner, there is still a side alley by the same name which is worth a visit. Open practice of Catholicism was banned after the Alteratie of 1578, and the monasteries were given over to other uses. For example, the Binnengasthuis (nl) was founded as a hospital on the sites of the Old and New Nunneries..
Until the seventeenth century, this street was called the northern part Gansoord. It was the eastern bank of the Amstel, while the Kalverstraat was the western shore. The 17th and 18th centuries developed a lively Nes with shops and companies enjoying bustling business anda vibey street. Soon cafes emerged and the Nes became a well know and busy street. By the early nineteenth century the Nes street evolved into an entertainment centre, a place to be seen. Besides brothels there were café chantants (singing cafes), Tivoli and cafes for artists. Also, the Nes street used to have a famous Salon des Variétés, this was a small, luxurious theatre where people could drink and smoke during shows. Later it became a centre for the tobacco trade. Until the 1930s there existed at Nes 17, one of the earliest gay cafes located: The Empire. In the 1900s, the street lost its popularity and became avoided by the upper class public. This is when the Tobacco trade found its way in and at night the street was desolate.
In 1881, Nico A Mayer applied for a building to build his tobacco firm, Mayer & Co. He went on to be of the biggest tobacco traders in Amsterdam. You can still find the historic stained glass and a Cassa (cash register) signage belonging to his legacy. During World War II ‘s occupation of Amsterdam, Nico Mayer remained undetected in the cellar of the manor for 3 years and survived the war. The Nico Mayer and the Mayer Manor story are still, to this day told in Dutch schools.
Today, the interior is inspired by last century’s art deco style. In 2013, after a three-year renovation, Nico Mayer’s tobacco house was reopened as the Home of Tenclub for a lackluster office space to its current rendition. During the renovation we uncovered remnants of a monastery and relics of WWII Jewish friends of Mr Mayer that used to hide in the basement.